The Purpose and Benefits of Debate
Debate provides a forum for students and adults alike to succinctly express themselves and persuade an audience while defending against another team whose aim is to counter every point. Simply put, debating is a battle – a battle of words. At a time when our youth are subject to so many negative influences, debating offers a plethora of advantages
There are many types of debate – including Parliamentary – however World Schools Style is used throughout Bermuda’s schools. This style calls for teams of three students to compete against another team, with each speaker having a specific role and function. The goal of the proposition team is to build a convincing case supporting the motion (topic being debated) while the role of the opposition is to dismantle their arguments and present a case against them. The debate is judged by a panel of adjudicators who determine a winner based on style, content and strategy.
The benefits of debate are numerous, and include;
Improved critical thinking skills
Debating is not just about delivering a prepared speech – it requires debaters to respond to and refute arguments presented by the opposing team. Students learn to improvise and react quickly to new points of view that emerge throughout the debate, without the benefit of time to prepare in-depth responses.
Increased confidence, poise and speech delivery
Students are required to speak for at least 6 minutes in front of an audience, as well as their teammates, competitors, and judges. To do so requires debaters to overcome any ‘stage fright’ they may have towards public speaking – something that plagues many adults, let alone developing teenagers.
Allows students to meet other local and international debaters in a fun environment
Debating breaks down so many barriers which may be present in society today. All middle and secondary schools on the island are able to enter teams in local tournaments, which brings together students representing schools from across the island. In essence, debate establishes a positive community for students to gravitate towards. We are also pleased that students from all public and private senior schools on the island have represented Bermuda in debate at the international level. These competitions allow Bermuda’s debaters to be exposed to – and gain respect for – a wonderful array of cultures and points of view whilst competing against some of the finest youth debaters in the world.
Teaches students to better listen and articulate
The winning team is not just the one which presents the most compelling points, but is also the one able to highlight the flaws of the other team’s case. However, debating rules of etiquette are in force, and such messages must be portrayed in a respectful manner that refrains from personal attacks.
Lays a solid foundation for future academic and professional pursuits
We strongly believe that debate fosters a strong sense of morals and comradery in our youth, whilst equipping them to take on a variety of challenges in their later educational and professional careers. It is no coincidence that debaters are often successful in winning scholarships to attend university, and represent Bermuda in the best of lights. Bermudian debaters have gone to become Rhodes Scholars, attend Ivy League universities, and become leaders in the public, private, and charitable sectors.
Developing an understanding of global affairs
Many of the debating motions deal with issues that are global in nature and concern economics, educational, environmental and philosophical topics. Debating encourages students to research and become conversant in critical topics, and consider issues beyond just a national point of view. Recent motions at local and international tournaments have included:
– This house would cease the exploitation of resources in the Arctic region
– This House believes that democratic states should not own or run media organisations
– This house supports sovereign debt default as a legitimate economic strategy for countries
I started public speaking and debating at the age of 12 and it has had an immeasurable impact on my academic, professional and personal trajectories. I was on the National Debate Team for the Worlds Schools’ Championships in the USA, South Africa (Team Co-Captain) and Singapore (Team Captain). I then went on to judge the World’s Championships in Wales during my university years. Debating honed my conversational, presentation and negotiation skills. It provided me with insight into the importance of understanding and respecting different viewpoints and sides of an argument.
The ability to articulate a viewpoint and respect those of others is not just a critical debating skill….it is a critical life skill. The ability to create a defensible and data-driven argument, while simultaneously preparing for and understanding oppositional views is essential in any career landscape (political, corporate, not-for-profit, government). My background in debating definitely contributed to me getting into an Ivy League (Brown University) for my undergrad and being selected for the Rhodes Scholarship (at the University of Oxford) .. but the impact on my life overall is far greater than the institutions I attended or the courses of study I pursued. To this day, I continue to speak, lecture and facilitate to thousands each year on the topics I care deeply about: gender, inclusion, diversity and wellbeing. It is debating that gave me the confidence to step up to this challenge and take advantage of the platforms I have been given to share messages that mean so much to me; messages I hope impact others (and their organizations) in powerful and positive ways.
In my view, debating shouldn’t just be an extracurricular pursuit.. debating and public speaking should be an essential part of any curriculum (similar to English and Math). It is an essential life tool!Christie Arscott-Hunter
Leadership Advisor and Researcher, Specializing in Gender and Generational Strategies